Kerala likely to bring curbs on proposed foreign university campuses

University Grants Commission(photo:twitter)
University Grants Commission. File Photo: IANS

Thiruvananthapuram/New Delhi/Chennai: The University Grants Commission (UGC) is all set to allow foreign universities to set up their campuses in India. However, Kerala is likely to impose restrictions on its functioning.

According to the Kerala State Higher Education Council, the state government would be able to intervene in the course structure, academic standards, exam pattern and fees of foreign universities. The state government could also deny recognition to the certificates of the universities refusing to follow its directives. This would hamper the prospects of students holding these certificates for higher studies and employment.

The equivalency certificate for degrees awarded by foreign universities is issued by a panel under the Higher Education Council. The decision in this regard is taken by a majority opinion among all the vice-chancellors, who are members of the panel.

However, it is pointed out that if the Central Government enacts a law on foreign universities, Kerala would be unable to restrict them.

Meanwhile, Dr Rajan Gurukkal, Vice-Chairman of the Kerala Higher Education Council, said that the outflow of students from Kerala to foreign educational institutions will not cease even if foreign universities open their campuses in the state. “Most Keralite students prefer to study abroad with the aim of gaining employment and settling down in foreign countries. Foreign university campuses in Kerala cannot end this trend. But if we can attract foreign students to these campuses, it will be a gain for the state,” he said.

No quotas

The UGC made it clear that there would be no reservation for any category on the Indian campuses of foreign universities.

Explaining the lack of mention of reservation in the draft guidelines released by it regarding foreign universities, the UGC pointed out that private universities already functioning in India did not provide reservations.

Foreign universities have to operate in India similarly to abroad. They don’t receive funds from the Central or state governments. Fees and course structure could be decided by the foreign universities themselves. There will be an equal preference for Indian as well as foreign citizens, said the UGC.

Currently, there are no regulations regarding scheduled or minority-category reservations in private universities. Even though a draft bill in this regard was prepared in 2019, there was no follow-up.

BJP’s objections in 2010

Incidentally, discussions regarding foreign universities in India have been taking place for a long time. A bill for the purpose was presented for the first time in 1995, but there was no progress.

In 2005-06, a draft bill was submitted before the Union Cabinet. Again, nothing happened. A similar bill was presented before the Parliament in 2010, during the term of the second UPA ministry. At that time, it was withdrawn following severe opposition from BJP, Left parties and SP.

The UPA’s bill had included provisions for a caution deposit of Rs 50 crore and a ban on transferring funds by foreign universities abroad. These conditions are absent in the latest guidelines issued by UGC.

TN against move

Kerala’s neighbouring state Tamil Nadu also has opposed the UGC’s move for foreign universities. In fact, Tamil Nadu is yet to approve the Central government’s National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020.

In place of NEP, Tamil Nadu has announced that it would implement a State Education Policy (SEC) in the state from the coming academic year. According to the Tamil Nadu Education Department, instead of inviting foreign universities to India, the standards of universities in the country have to be improved to international levels.

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